• Dale Allen

What is the Difference Between COSHH and DSEAR?

Updated: May 4

Often there is confusion over which body of regulations you need to follow when the substances you are working with possess properties that are similar but can be categorised differently, under separate regulatory bodies.


Both COSHH and DSEAR are very similar in that employers must fully assess hazards and control the risks that come from handling, using, storing or transporting hazardous or dangerous substances.


What then, are the differences between COSHH and DSEAR?


What is DSEAR?


The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations (DSEAR) is a statutory body that places upon an employer certain obligations to protect their employees and the public from dangerous substances.


Dangerous substances are classed as those materials that can seriously injure or kill and may contain any of these properties:

  • Explosive;

  • spontaneously combustible;

  • flammable;

  • corrosive;

  • oxidising;

  • highly reactive.

It's likely you are able to find dangerous substances in almost any workplace. Certain paints, solvents, gases and even dust created as a by-product could be explosive, corrosive or flammable and as such is classed as a dangerous substance.


A fundamental part of DSEAR is the identification and classification of areas in the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur. These areas must be classified into separate zones based on the risk of an explosion occurring and kept free of ignition sources through containment or protective systems.

DSEAR then, calls for employers to identify the substances in their workplace that hold the potential to cause fire, corrosion or explosion risks. To do this risk assessments must be performed on each work process and area in the workplace to ascertain if hazards are present and the risks they bring with them.


Once the hazards have been assessed and the risks identified then you're able to decide if it's possible to remove each risk, and if not, to implement the correct control measure to reduce that risk.


Because dangerous substances pose such a catastrophic risk it's imperative that each and every work area on-site has an emergency plan in place on top of performing a regular risk assessment.

If something were to happen during the work process this emergency plan will ensure everyone is able to escape the area and contact the relevant emergency services to contain it.


Likewise, it's required to train your employees on all of the hazards and risks they are exposed to when doing their job. Many work processes or chemicals release fumes which invade the air in close proximity, pushing away oxygen. This makes inhaling that air unhealthy, potentially causing many different health concerns for people working close by.


Trained employees would spot this hazard and report it meaning it can be quickly removed or properly controlled.


On top of assessing and controlling the risks that come with dangerous substances,DSEAR calls on employers to ensure all assessments and control measures are regularly reviewed and updated when needed.


The DSEAR regulations also demand constant monitoring of exposure levels and the surveillance of worker health to ensure exposure is reduced to acceptable levels.


What is COSHH?


The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 is the UK's way of ensuring the safe use and control of hazardous substances. It's a statutory body that places requirements on employers to ensure anyone attending their worksite is protected from substances that are in any way hazardous to human health.

Substances that are hazardous to health can be any of the following:

  • Fumes,

  • fibres,

  • chemicals,

  • vapours,

  • nano-particles,

  • and dust.

Generally, every business uses or at least contains hazardous substances. It doesn't matter whether you work in a factory or an office, there are usually hazardous substances present. Look at the example substances above and try to spot one of them around you.


For example, if you work in an office, that thin layering of dust across your computer tower could be classed as a hazardous substance. The cleaning chemicals locked in your store cupboard definitely are.


Each and every one of these hazardous substances and the job or area around them must be risk assessed to determine what the risks are and how to control them to ensure people are protected from the health dangers. This includes hazardous substances that may be produced in the workplace, for instance, the fumes created when smelting metals.


On top of assessing and controlling the risks that come with hazardous substances, COSHH calls on employers to ensure all assessments and control measures are regularly reviewed and updated when needed.


The COSHH regulations also demand constant monitoring of exposure levels, training for employees and the surveillance of worker health to ensure exposure is reduced to acceptable levels.


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This article from originally written for Sevron's business page on LinkedIn

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